Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Pastures New











Well, not so much new as familiar. Our over-Wintering sheep have gone. The transporter came - very impressive with three layers all worked hydraulically. They were reluctant to go in at first but - like sheep - once one had taken the plunge they all wished to follow immediately and clogged up the system!
As the farmer said, it was time for them to go. They had become restless, jumping on to the wall tops and knocking down stones. Yesterday, when I walked with Tess, I found that three had jumped over the beck, cleared the fence and were gallivanting about in next door's fields, kicking up their back legs and full of the joys of Spring. A shaken feed bag had them back by the same route in no time.
So they have gone - the Swaledales (the majority) - they are the ones with horns, a black face and a white nose - are going back to high on the Swaledale fells above the Buttertubs ( large holes in the ground, mainly limestone-lined, where farmer's wives used to put their butter in the days before freezers). What is going to happen to the Texels I don't know - there are only a few of these - you will see the big girl in the photo with a white face - she is enormous.
The Swaledales are hefted sheep - born on the fells they learn where their land is and they pass this information on to their offspring, so that they never stray far from their own land. Like the swallows coming back to their nest, this is another of Nature's miracles.
I have put on a photograph of the sheep going upstairs in the lorry. As well as showing you how the lorry is constructed it also shows that other feature of the Swaledale sheep - they do not lose their tails. Most sheep have their tails docked in infancy but Swaledales keep theirs for warmth. It does create problems as the tail area is often subject to maggot infestation. (Sorry about that).
So now our fields are empty and the grass can grow ready for a Summer input of cattle and some silage. It is always sad to see the sheep go, although they have left a good crop of bits of wool hanging on trees and hedges - I sometimes wish I was a spinner and could put it to good use.




19 comments:

Derrick said...

Good morning Weaver,

So, do the Swaledales look after themselves from now until Winter, or does someone keep an eye on them?

elizabethm said...

Nice to catch up on a few of your blogs. I love your garden pictures below and we have just seen our first swallow. spring is a wonderful thing!

jinksy said...

Once you got hooked on the spinning lark, you'd want wool by the fleece load, believe me! I had a ricketty apology for a wheel at one time, and the spinning bug had a good nibble at me before it moved on! x

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

I loved this post and its bits of sheep lore. You called your Swaledales "hefted" sheep…is this the figurative use of the word referring back to the influence of their parents and breed history of coming from the fells?

Coastcard said...

How good to learn about the Swaledales and their tails. My favourite sweaters as a child were (a) my navy fisheren's jumper and (b) my Swaledale ... with cable woolly hat to match! Yes, I, too (like the the previous blogger), would like to understand 'hefted' better.

I used to live in Hendrefoilan, which I believe means winter pasture in Welsh. Sadly the area has now become a city suburb apart from a small wood. Every Christmas we used as a family to read a truly wonderful children's story about Ursli and the Swiss winter pasture ... you can read about it here on Amazon.com.

Heather said...

Another interesting post where I have learned a bit more about sheep. You could always use the tufts of fleece left on fences for dry felting. I always wanted to learn to spin but there seems little enough time already, and no gaps for new pastimes.

Teresa said...

So interesting reading about the sheep. I've thought of spinning - and would love to - but I think I have enough irons in the fire already!

Mistlethrush said...

Thanks for another interesting and informative post. Do you have to keep visiting the sheep to check on their tails over the summer months?

willow said...

I always enjoy reading about your lovely sheep.

Arija said...

A pity when they start demolishing the stone walls so, having left a good crop of manure on your pastures , it is good to see the woolyback go for a holiday elsewhere.
It is time we crutched our sheep. Unfortunately we have no water anywhere near hthe shearing shed at present so we cant bring them in. The drought has many faces.

Woman in a Window said...

It is kinda sad, isn't it? They bring such life and cuteness. On with the next though, greener grass and ruminating cows!

Crafty Green Poet said...

They must like going back to their fells... You could make felt out of their shed scraps of wool as well

acornmoon said...

I never thought about a tail for warmth before, then again I never thought about maggot infestation. What a lot i learn from your blog!

Welcome To Wilmoth Farms said...

Very cool! I never knew that the tails were docked, thought they were just born that way! DUH me! So I of course didnt know it was because they get maggots! very interesting! So since they are gone is this the last sheep post of the winter? I'll be bummed!

Raph G. Neckmann said...

They do sound a riotous bunch! Hope they enjoy their next pastures.

I love the Buttertubs name and origin!

BT said...

Bye bye sheep, until the Autumn? They are rather cute and I like that they have tails, but not the maggots!! Yuk.

The Weaver of Grass said...

A few facts to answer your queries.

Someone will go round the sheep on the moor regularly to check that they are alright. Maggots are not such a problem up on the moor tops as there are usually less flies, but nevertheless they do need to check as maggot infestation can eventually kill.
The word "hefted" is not in my dictionary - but it is a word used mainly in the North of the country to refer to sheep who have been born and bred in a certain are and who pass on their skills to their offspring, so that they don't stray far.
My views on spinning are those of Teresa - I just have not got the time - crafty green poet's idea of making felt is a good one, so might gather some of the wool off the hedges if I have time. And yes, the sheep have fertilised the fields nicely and the farmer harrowed it around yesterday so that it is spread thinly.
Thanks for all your comments.

thousandflower said...

When I was in Swaledale years ago I wondered about the tails left on the sheep. We started out not docking ours but after a few maggot infestations all the lambs get docked now.

Wendy said...

Since you live in the countryside like I do, you might want to consider participating in Small Town Snapshot Sunday. I hope you will!